Opioid addiction is rampant in the United States, in part because opioids are highly addictive substances and in part because opioid medications have been so readily available.
Once addicted, it’s incredibly hard for a person to identify and eliminate the habit – at least, when they’re fighting by themselves. With the right support and the right resources, it’s not only possible, but likely for someone struggling with opioid addiction to recover.
The question is, what can you do to help someone struggling with opioid addiction?
Recognize the Signs of Opioid Addiction
Your first job is to learn to recognize the signs of opioid addiction. Some people are skilled at hiding their drug habit, so it’s on you to be able to judge when the habit forms – and when it goes too far. If you notice any of these signs, you’ll know it’s time to step in and help:
- Showing strong cravings for opioids. Opioids are highly addictive. Depending on the drug, it often only takes a few sessions for a person to start feeling strong cravings for opioids. A person in the early stages of opioid addiction may find themselves thinking about the drug often. In the later stages, they may feel anxious and irritated when they aren’t able to have it.
- Trying to quit but not being able. It’s a misconception that people struggling with opioid addiction simply don’t have enough willpower to quit. The reality is, most people struggling with addiction try to quit or cut back on their own, but aren’t able to follow through. For example, your friend may tell you that they’re going to quit once and for all – but in a few days, they turn back to the drug.
- Skipping commitments to use opioids. In later stages of addiction, people often skip or forget about commitments so they can continue using opioids. For example, they may stand you up at a restaurant where you agreed to meet, or they might persistently show up late for work.
- Developing a tolerance of opioids. Like with most drugs, human beings develop a tolerance for opioids over time. A person with an opioid abuse problem will find it harder and harder to achieve the high they felt previously; they’ll take higher doses to feel the same effects, which is incredibly dangerous.
- Harming relationships because of opioids. Pay attention to your relationship with this person (and the other relationships they have). Are they getting hurt or abandoned because of opioids? Is this person distancing themselves from others or pushing other people away? Are they lying, stealing, or committing other actions that destroy their relationships? If so, it’s a sign they’re in serious need of help.
- Physically or mentally deteriorating. Study how this person acts and looks on a regular basis. If they show signs of mental or physical deterioration, you may need to step in. For example, have they stopped bathing themselves? Do they seem disheveled or “not all there?”
- Overdosing. Overdosing on opioids is deadly serious, and it’s a high risk if the person is addicted to these drugs. It’s important to step in and get help when a person overdoses; you may not get another chance.
Remain Patient and Compassionate
If and when you start to notice the signs outlined above, it’s important to remain patient and compassionate throughout the situation. Don’t chastise your friend for making bad decisions. Don’t judge them for relapsing. Try not to get mad at them, even if they’ve done something to harm you or your relationship.
If you’re consistently open-hearted and open-minded, they’ll be more willing to confide in you and more willing to accept your help. Otherwise, you may push them further into the opioid addiction spiral.
It can be tough to remain calm and patient in some circumstances, so be sure to take frequent breaks and find ways to manage your own stress and feelings.
Focus on Management, Rather Than a Cure
Too many people think that opioid addiction is a disease that can simply be cured – that with the right approach or a few days of sobriety you can immediately “kick the habit.” The truth is that opioid addiction can require a lifetime of ongoing management. You’ll be much more effective with your help if you treat this as managing a chronic disease, rather than curing or eliminating an acute one.
Understand Long-Term and Severe Treatment Options
You should also understand the treatment options for long-term and heavy abusers; medication may be necessary to ease withdrawal symptoms and prepare a patient for a life without opioids. For example, buprenorphine is available as a dissolving tablet and can be prescribed by a doctor outside of a clinic environment. Methadone is available as a liquid taken daily, but it can only be used in a certified opioid treatment program environment.
Find Distractions and Healthy Alternatives
Do your best to find healthy alternatives and fun distractions for the person struggling with opioid addiction – especially if they’re trying hard to quit or if they’ve already been through rehab. Focusing on something like hiking, bicycling, or gardening can keep their mind off the drug and keep them active.
Call Upon Others for More Support
It’s almost impossible for a single person to shoulder the burden of helping someone with an opioid addiction. Don’t be afraid to call on others for help. Your first line of defense is contacting other people who love the person in question, including friends and family members; work together to give this person a loving, supportive environment in which they can recover.
Opioid addiction is a very serious matter, and without the right help, your friend, family member, or colleague could be at risk for overdose or other long-term health consequences.
Unfortunately, emotional support and personal accountability may not be enough to pull them out. They may need the help of a substance abuse program, which can help them overcome their physical dependence.
For more information on opioid addiction recovery programs that work, contact Just Believe Recovery Center today!